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Teach your dog to find his way home

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Breed Selection Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

No one wants to imagine this happening, but suppose your dog gets out of your house. He wanders around the neighborhood, by some miracle avoiding being hit by a car. At some point he stops and looks around and decides that this Big Wide World  is no place for this Little Doggie.

home sweet homeHe wants to go home. But does he know his way home?

Many dogs spend their lives in their own home and yard and are seldom taken for walks. If they never see what their house, walkway, and driveway look like from the sidewalk, how can they find their way home if they get out?

Some clever pups will backtrack their own scent home. Others might accidentally end up near their house and pick up their own scent or their owner's scent on the gate or driveway.

But your dog will have a much better chance of finding his way home if he gets some practice locating his house when he's out for a walk with you.

Step by step guide to teaching "Go home"

  1. Choose a door to designate as HOME.  It should be accessible to the dog if he were to go missing. In other words, you should be able to prop the HOME  door open so he could come straight into the house if he made it back to that door. If the HOME  door is behind a gate, it should be a gate that you can prop open so he could come through the gate and into the yard, and then through the HOME  door.
  2. With your pup on leash, go out the HOME  door. Once both of you have stepped out, stop and place one of his favorite treats on the door mat or at the base of the door. Make sure he sees it – make a big show of it.
  3. Lead him just down the steps or down the walkway. Then turn around and point him toward the HOME  door (and the treat). Say, "Go home!" and RUN to the door with him. It's okay if he pulls on the leash here. If he's forgotten about the treat, point it out so he can gobble it up.
  4. After he gets the idea and dashes to the door every time, you might drop the leash IF  your street is quiet and safe, and IF  your dog always comes when you call. Let him drag the leash to the front door while you trot along behind.
  5. Now it's only a matter of getting farther and farther away and showing him the way home from different directions.

Don't dawdle once you've told him "Go home!" Don't let him stop to sniff anything. Get to the HOME  door fast so he makes the connection. Encourage him all the way with a cheerful, "Go home! Home, home!"

If he tries to take a wrong turn, use the leash to check him very gently (no corrections!), just a gentle "oops, not that way, go home." Help your dog succeed! Make this a fun game!

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

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